International students continue to be drawn to the capital – but for how much longer? INFO speaks with Kevin Coyne, Dean of Student Life and Lecturer at Université Paris-Dauphine London campus
According to Universities UK, the advocacy organisation for British universities, Brexit has introduced a precariousness to the sector, with research funding and student exchange programmes like Erasmus potentially under threat. On the ground, observers have not yet noticed an impact on student numbers. Many say that the true impact will be felt once a withdrawal agreement or a ‘no deal’ has been put in place – with the latter being described as ‘highly undesirable’ in a recent Universities UK whitepaper on the issue. ‘Brexit has not disrupted things in terms of admissions so far,’ says Kevin Coyne, Dean of Student Life and Lecturer at Université Paris-Dauphine London campus, and a thirty-year veteran of universities in America and the UK. ‘We have seen some movement in terms of the parents of students who might be leaving London, or not taking up job offers here, but our intake has actually increased over the past three years.’ However, far from being benign, Coyne notes that the referendum result has contributed to a sense of unease for EU students about their legal status. He has also observed, across the sector, that Brexit has been unsettling from a faculty point of view, with some potential job candidates unwilling to commit to UK-based job offers due to uncertainty around the Brexit process.
The global dimension
The majority of Paris Dauphine’s 215 full time students and 35 faculty members come from abroad, with a significant cohort of their student body coming directly from France to work towards a Bachelor’s degree in economics and management. The school is linked with its Paris campus, a public French university whose business management and finance programmes are considered to be amongst the most prestigious in France.
To the extent that Brexit threatens the cosmopolitan character of the city, institutions like Paris-Dauphine have a role to play to attract foreign students to their campus and the city. ‘Students say they want a global experience, and that is a big reason they have chosen to come to study in London,’ says Coyne.
‘It is one of the capital’s great advantages that it can offer culturallymixed environments – and a certain level of acclimatisation – that these students seek. And they see the city as a launching pad to a global career.’ According to Coyne, very few of his French students see themselves working back in France after they have completed their studies. They have global aspirations, and expectations of working in places like America and the UK, as well as China and developing markets in Africa.
He also observes that the French and other European students who come to London have an ease with being surrounded by other languages – a clear advantage in a globalised marketplace over many students who come from the UK system. By the time students graduate from Dauphine, they will have acquired a minimum of three languages.
For Coyne, one of the important factors in the future of higher education in London, and the UK, will be on health provision. Currently overseas students are covered by the NHS, but new reciprocal agreements may need to be made post-Brexit, including robust pastoral support and mental health provision, growing areas of concern amongst student bodies. As it currently stands, the most recent QS ranking named London as the best city in the world for students – a title previously held by Paris and Montreal – citing its culture, access to the jobs market, and high levels of tolerance and diversity, which contributes to a sense of belonging for overseas students. It is a plaudit echoed by Coyne. ‘The work-place of the future will be multi-cultural and multi-lingual. What better city to provide this training than London.’